What CEOs Need To Know Now About
Cyber Risks and How to Protect Their Business

A C-Suite Guide to Cybersecurity

Cybercrime is on the Rise

Around the world, public and private organizations of every shape and size face unprecedented levels of cyber threats by a wide range of criminal organizations, state-backed hackers, and opportunistic individuals. 

Some of the year's most high-profile cybercrime events include the SolarWinds supply chain attack, Microsoft Exchange's data breach, the Colonial Pipeline cyber attack, and Kaseya's ransomware incident. These attacks were so significant that they have completely changed the way governments, companies, and private citizens worldwide think about cyber defense. 

Though for every high-profile cyber threat incident that becomes a household name, many more of the most devastating cyber exploitation events are never published or acknowledged by their victims. 

  • In 2020, the average cost of a data breach for corporate customers reached $3.86 million and took 280 days to fully contain. 
  • Since 2019, cybersecurity incidents involving malware deployment have increased by 358% overall, and ransomware increased by 435%.  
  • Currently, phishing attacks are responsible for 80% of all cyber threat events and occur in 91% of all data breaches. 
  • The landscape of cybercrime is constantly evolving, and without adequate measures in place to both prevent and detect current threats, your organization is at a severe disadvantage.
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The global digital transformation that has made cloud computing and digital networks as ubiquitous as mobile telecommunications technology have created a perfect storm of opportunity for cybercriminals. With more and more people, businesses, and streams of data online, there is more and more potential for criminal organizations to breach security systems and extract vital and sensitive information. 

In 2021, some of the most prevalent forms of cybercrime against public and private organizations include:

  • Cyber Extortion Operations 
  • Identity Fraud 
  • Email and Internet Fraud 
  • Theft of Sensitive Financial Information and Assets 
  • Theft of Intellectual Property 
  • Theft and sale of corporate data.
  • Cyberespionage

In most cases, cybercrime falls under two main categories:

  • Criminal activity that targets individuals and organizations
  • Illegal activity that uses computers and networks to commit other crimes.

The financial impact of cybercrime cannot be understated. Although estimates put the global cost of cybercrime at a record $1 trillion in 2020—this year, analysts predict the total cost of cybercrime to soar to $6 trillion by year's end.

Organizations are breached on average every 39 seconds. Of course, beyond the immense economic impact, it creates the potential for reputation and profitability losses that jeopardize everything your team has worked for.

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The Crimes are Becoming More Sophisticated

The criminal organizations engaged with cybercrime are motivated by a wide range of profit-seeking and ideological motivations. They are willing to do whatever they possibly can to compromise your organization's digital defenses and utilize the sensitive data driving your success for their own benefit. 

Crimeware-as-a-Service (CaaS) has emerged as a highly lucrative opportunity for individuals with leading information security skill sets. Many of the most active hacking syndicates in the world have utilized advanced affiliate programs to increase criminal activity and spread their reach worldwide. Malware variants such as Cring, REvil, Maze, Ryuk, XORIST, and Thanos are being used alongside openly available hacking tools such as GameOverZeus and Cobalt Strike to unleash havoc on companies in every industry active today. 

To make matters worse, an extremely high percentage of cybercrimes use advanced forms of social engineering that manipulate individuals to give away sensitive information and network access. For instance, estimates indicate that 91% of all data breaches began with spear-phishing campaigns directed at individual corporate and institutional email accounts. 

These findings underscore the necessity for organizations to think holistically about cybersecurity. Businesses need to identify and monitor network blind spots and maintain dynamic responses and fail-safes to detect threats and prevent threat events from escalating out of control. 

In this guide, we will provide actionable insights to help C-Suite decision-makers make sense of the current landscape of cyber threats while positioning their organizations to detect and prevent criminal activity from being perpetrated across digital networks.

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Understanding The Different Types of Cybersecurity Protection Available

Prevention and detection are terms used to describe the most prevalent strategies for bolstering cyber defenses. Traditionally, prevention-based cybersecurity was robust and responsive enough to keep most organizations safe as long as they deployed the leading technical solutions and cybersecurity best practices. Increasingly, however, the prevention-based approach is dramatically limited due to the highly complex and fast-moving nature of modern cybercrime threat events. 

Where preventative cybersecurity seeks to ensure that cyber threat actors cannot gain access to networks, clouds, and endpoints such as employee tablets and computers, detection-based cybersecurity seeks to proactively identify and mitigate threats that have already breached digital systems, infrastructure, and architecture.    

Detection-based cybersecurity compliments prevention-based methods by rigorously analyzing the entire threat environment and identifying malicious activity. Detection-based cybersecurity is essential for countering highly targeted modern multistage cyber attacks such as those posed by ransomware and other emergent malware variants.

It is essential to understand that the most advanced cybersecurity frameworks do not seek to emphasize detection or prevention as the most beneficial approach to defense. Instead, they seek to build a multi-layered strategy that harmonizes how these two systems can complement each other.

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Understanding Prevention-Based Security Protocols

The prevention-based approach to cybersecurity is a much more traditional way of addressing cybercrime—much like the castle wall of yesteryear. Some prevention-based approach elements include network firewalls, antivirus software, and utilizing patches for known security vulnerabilities. 

Prevention-based cybersecurity focuses on strengthening existing fortifications and enhancing them. It is generally a bit easier to prevent known cybersecurity issues than it is to defend against emergent threats. 

Unfortunately, cybercriminals understand this all too well. The global cat and mouse game between hackers and the law continues to be obscured by newer techniques such as metamorphic and polymorphic malware variants that can change the source code they propagate across digital networks. 

Generally, the prevention-based approach to cybersecurity is most helpful in responding to known threats that security researchers have already identified. In the past, when global organizations had a much smaller attack surface to defend, prevention was enough in most cases. Still, the landscape of cyber threats is evolving so quickly and radically that a strategy based on prevention alone will often fall short of a truly resilient cyber defense protocol. 

The preventative approach to cybersecurity is beneficial, but it is important to understand its limits. There are estimated to be 560,000 new malware variants discovered each day. Prevention-based security relies on using information that is already available based on the use of signature detection. Unfortunately, with so many new malicious programs unleashed each day, it is extremely challenging and unsustainable to defend against new and unknown variants using a prevention-based approach alone. 

Understanding Detection-based Security Protocols

The detection-based approach to cybersecurity is driven by a proactive analysis of networks, cloud configurations, and end-points to see what can be breached, what has been breached, and how the attack was carried out. This method often deploys artificial intelligence, deep learning, and machine learning algorithms to identify and remediate emergent cyber threats. 

It is much more rational to presume an organization will be breached in the current cyber threat environment than to assume it will not. The reality is that every second another cybercrime is being unleashed against private citizens, governments, companies, and every type of organization imaginable. The detection-based approach to cyber defense requires advanced expertise and know-how to bolster technology.  

Cyber exploitation operations involving methods such as phishing and other forms of social engineering are extremely challenging to stop using prevention-based cybersecurity methods alone. Active threat hunting and endpoint analysis is essential for stopping these attacks. 

Although many types of cybercrime are known, many more malicious programs and techniques are still to be accurately identified and categorized. A detection-based approach, therefore, requires the advanced security expertise of cybersecurity professionals. A detection-based approach is what is required in proper threat hunting, which applies data science and machine learning models to network, user, and machine data to proactively hunt for unknown and hidden threats in your environment.  

The detection-based approach to cyber defense has become synonymous with ethical hacking and so-called white hat hackers. While cybercriminals are continually working to thwart cyber defenses, on the flip side are white hat hackers, who work aggressively to counter criminal activity, even deploying the same tactics to bring order and security to digital networks and infrastructure.

 

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The prevention-based approach to cybersecurity is geared around preventing known threats or strains of malware that have already been analyzed and characterized by information security experts. The use of firewalls and anti-virus software are two of the most common prevention-based methods for countering known threats. 

Other methods for countering known cyber threats include: 

  • Data Loss Prevention (DLP) Solutions
  • Security Information Event Management (SIEM) Solutions
  • Web Application Firewall (WAF) Solutions

The prevention-based approach to cybersecurity worked very well in the past. Given the immense scope and complexity of modern cyberattacks, advanced managed detection and response services have evolved in response. 

Detection-based cybersecurity focuses on analyzing the potential for unknown strains of malware to compromise endpoints across digital network environments. Security blindspots are areas where unknown threat actors and unknown attack types pose the most danger to your organization. 

Other advanced forms of detection based cybersecurity include:

  • Database activity monitoring (DAM)
  • Intrusion detection systems (IDS)
  • Intrusion prevention systems (IPS)

The most comprehensive managed detection and response services provide a complimentary range of prevention and detection-based solutions. The end result is a multi-layered cybersecurity approach focused on covering the largest possible threat surface area and mitigating problematic outcomes immediately.  

Managed detection and response is the absolute best way to limit your organization’s exposure to potentially devastating blind spots that make cyber crimes much easier to compromise your success.

Where is the Blind Spot in Cybersecurity?

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Identifying Potential Attack Vectors: What Needs to be Protected


Cybersecurity Starts with Network Security

Network security is a term used to describe efforts to secure the many different technologies, devices, and processes that work in tandem to keep your organization online and connected. 

Network security refers to the specific rules and configurations your organization uses to ensure your computer networks' integrity, confidentiality, and accessibility. Regardless of your organization's size, industry, or infrastructure, it is essential to focus efforts on bolstering network security


Physical Network Security

Physical network security is a term used to describe efforts to secure the physical access points to network components such as routers, servers, and cables. Enhancing physical network security might involve implementing controlled access to sensitive areas where only those with the proper credentials are allowed entry. Setting up a biometric authentication system to doors containing sensitive items is one way to control these areas. 


Technical Network Security

Technical network security refers to efforts to protect the sensitive data stored within and transits throughout your network. Safeguarding your network requires both keeping out unauthorized users and ensuring that authorized users receive frequent training on current best practices around data security.


Administrative Network Security

Administrative network security refers to efforts to enhance the security frameworks and policies that govern who has access to what aspects of your networks and for what reasons. Ensuring clear systems are in place for evaluating who has access to what elements of your networks and prescribing clear practices to remove access once it is no longer required enhances this area. 

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Protecting Information Stored in Cloud-based Infrastructure

Cloud security refers to efforts undertaken to secure information shared between cloud-based service providers and your organization. 

In most cases, organizations have three specific areas of concern regarding cloud security: 

  • The responsibility of cloud-based providers to secure information
  • The responsibility of an organization to secure its own cloud-stored resources
  • The responsibility for the provider and organization to share responsibility.

As the saying goes, your organization is only as "strong as your weakest link," and areas such as cloud-based security reveal this perspective dramatically. Unfortunately, many of the organizations victimized by criminal organizations did not expose their networks to attackers purposefully. But because hackers were able to compromise their cloud-based partners, they found themselves under attack as well.

This type of vulnerability is why it is so important to fortify your own cyber defenses and choose vendors and partners that you can be sure are taking every precaution to ensure they are not vulnerable to the potentially devastating effects of cybercrime.

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Ensuring Endpoints are Secured

Endpoint security refers to efforts undertaken to ensure that all the platforms and interfaces that connect with your networks and cloud-based services are secure. Some examples of endpoints include any mobile devices with access to your networks, desktop computers located on-premises, laptop computers that connect via VPNs, and even Internet-of-Things (IoT) connected devices that have access to your digital environment. 

Enhancing endpoint security requires a multi-layered security stack that can interface and connect with a broad range of services and technologies housed within or outside your physical location. Endpoint security is basically the complete security landscape of connections related to the data at the center of your organization.

Focus on User, Authentication, and Permission Security

User, authentication, and permission security refer to efforts undertaken to ensure that the right people in your organization have access to the right interfaces for the correct amount of time. We know that the most common way for cybercriminals to compromise digital networks is by contacting authenticated users and unleashing social engineering operations to gain access to the digital infrastructure. This is why focusing on who should have access to what information, for what reasons, and how long is vital. 

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Enhancing Cyber Resilience: Identifying blind spots that Many Growing Organizations Miss

Today's advanced and persistent cyber threat actors deploy an ever-expanding array of tools to evade preventative efforts and unleash havoc. This is why it is essential to develop a risk management protocol that creates a clear framework that seeks to increase the visibility of the many interlocking platforms, services, and technologies that encompass network, cloud, and endpoint security. 

It is essential to understand that cyber defenses are not one-size-fits-all. Your organization must develop a cybersecurity strategy aligned with the unique landscape of threat that your organization is facing and the acceptable levels of risk that you are willing to endure. To have a better sense of where your organization stands today and what emergent threats and blind spots you need to be aware of down the line, you can request a cybersecurity assessment

 
Where blind spots can evolve
  • Every Device, Every Connection, Every User

It is absolutely impossible to defend the unknown. Visibility is essential to threat mitigation. That is why you need to have a clear overview of every device, connection, and user that has ever had access to your digital environment. So many modern cyber-attacks use credentials that should have expired, lost devices, or network configurations that are not properly managed. The single greatest blind spot to reduce is that of uncertainty. Create a clear living document that contains comprehensive information about the non-traditional assets at the center of your cyber operations.

  • Patch, Patch, Patch Today

Believe it or not, you can avert most cybercrimes by implementing the recommended security patches as soon as they are published. While not every security patch may be deemed absolutely mission-critical, you need to have a clear framework in place for constantly evolving what systems have been updated and what needs to be updated. This is not something to do after you are attacked. It is what you do to prevent being targeted in the first place. 

  • Password Security is Cybersecurity

Nearly every organization globally has multiple instances of extremely weak and simplistic passwords being used internally and externally with customers and clients. These are very foolish errors that make it much easier for cybercriminals to target your organization and compromise your data. Your organization should be considering bolstering password protocols with other elements such as biometric security and or multi-factor authentication. User access, authentications, and permissions need to be adjusted regularly and access should be revoked to prevent unusual and potentially malicious user behaviors from being carried out.

  • Awareness is the Path to Excellence 

Despite the heightened sense of awareness of C-suite executives around cybersecurity topics, many employees in your company may have no idea what the best security practices are or why they are essential to use every day. Your organization needs to set a framework for teaching cybersecurity best practices to new employees while also providing additional training to staff regularly. Furthermore, you need to impose clear penalties for those who do not comply with your cybersecurity strategy and remove the effects of any shadow IT that is not complying with organizational best practices for the development of applications or other mission-critical resources.

  • Encryption is an Opportunity

One of the best ways to thwart the efforts of those looking to steal your sensitive data is to make it nearly impossible for anyone unauthorized to access it. Encryption is a major security opportunity often overlooked. Encryption algorithms and keys must be kept up to date and secured.

  • Set it but Don’t Forget It

Most executives would be shocked to learn how many cybercrimes are due to network, cloud, and software misconfigurations. These issues are extremely easy to address but require a culture of constant evaluation and proactive analysis. Your IT team needs to check for misconfigurations and address issues on the fly, not after suffering a catastrophic data breach.

  • Create Segmentation 

Without network segmentation, when attackers gain access to one system, they can easily breach your entire network. Partitioning and isolation are valuable tactics that can help a minor breach turn into a major news event that destroys your global reputation and future earning potential. APIs and intrusion detection and remediation applications developed with 3rd party assistance need to be contained to prevent isolated security events from growing into organizational-wide problems.

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What You Need to Do to Protect Your Organization

Executive decision-makers are on the frontlines of defense efforts due to the immense complexity and organizational resources it takes to counter modern threats. Not to mention the fact that C-Suite execs represent one of the most lucrative targets for social engineering operations and targeted spear-phishing campaigns. Consider that:

  • 84% of C-level executives claim they have been personally targeted by at least one cyberattack in the past year, with phishing attacks again being the most common method used. 
  • 78% of IT leaders claim the C-Suite and executive leadership are the most likely to be targeted by cyber-attacks. 
  • 76% of CEOs admit to bypassing security protocols to get something done faster, sacrificing security for speed.

Brain Foster, MobileIron's Head of SVP Product Management commented on the above figures stating:

"These findings highlight a point of tension between business leaders and IT departments. IT views the C-suite as the weak link when it comes to cybersecurity, while execs often see themselves as above security protocols."  

"In today's modern enterprise, cybersecurity can't be an optional extra. Businesses need to ensure they have a dynamic security foundation in place that works for everyone within the organization. This means that mobile security must be easy to use, while also ensuring that employees at every level of the business can maintain maximum productivity without interference, and without feeling that their own personal privacy is being compromised."

Creating a culture of transparency and accountability to enhance cybersecurity requires having a clear overview of where your organization stands and what it stands to lose from not taking adequate precautions to protect against losses to shareholder value. 

PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), an audit and assurance company that works in cybersecurity found that 69% of consumers surveyed believe that the companies they use are vulnerable to being hacked and attacked by cybercriminals. The same survey indicated that 87% of consumers are even willing to walk away and take their business elsewhere if, or when, a data breach or other serious cyber attack occurs.

The Tools and Expertise You need

Building next-generation capabilities for threat detection and response is not feasible for many organizations due to the expense involved and the lack of cybersecurity talent available today. Securus360's MXDR services solve this challenge by delivering advanced detection and response capabilities as a service, thereby removing the complexity and cost of building an in-house, next-generation security operations center.

Instead of relying on a patchwork coalition of external security applications—implement a solution that places your entire security operations command into a single platform— creating a unified source of truth. Hire our industry-leading cybersecurity experts and prepare your organization to counter the threats of today to realize the opportunities of tomorrow.

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